The right strings!

Mandolin #1 was completed a while ago, so it’s time to experiment with string type. The original strings were D’Addario J67(s) which have nickel wound G and D strings. I used these because they last a bit longer due to perspiration tarnish.  I’m trying a set of D’Addario EJ74(s) which are a standard medium gauge […]

Mandolin Build: Finished Sound

(Prev: String Up)

Here is a sound sample of the finished mandolin.

The sound is rich on the wound strings and punchy on the treble side. I actually use this instrument for bluegrass and folk music. It seems to want to play both equally well.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the mandolin is how the […]

Mandolin Build: String Up

(Prev: End Pin)

The builder waits for weeks to live in this moment… what will it sound like? Will the top bracing hold 160 pounds of pressure without collapsing? Will all of the work come together to make a fine and unique mandolin?

I’m actually pleased with the sound. I have the string height set at: […]

Mandolin Build: End Pin

(Prev: French Polish Neck)

I took this picture to show how nifty inlay looks with maple, ebony, and rosewood.

The end pin is ebony, the vertical strip is ebony, the binding is rosewood and the body, maple. Quite the contrast, eh? One must be cautious of “bleed” from rosewood, however!

This is where shellac really shines! The […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Neck

(Prev: Bridge)

Looking at the back view you can see the shine of the shellac across the back and up the neck. The necks are neat because the maple’s grain really “pops” when the finish is applied.

Most necks are left unfinished because of shellac’s solubility issues with water (or perspiration). I finished my neck just […]

Mandolin Build: Bridge

(Prev: Headstock)

Here are a couple of pictures of the mandolin bridge resting in position.

The advantage of a “floating” bridge is that it can be moved to allow for excellent intonation of the strings. The disadvantage? Because it moves around on the top of a compound curve the feet will never be in perfect contact […]

Mandolin Build: Headstock

(Prev: French Polish Back)

Here you’re looking at the headstock overlay on mandolin #1. Smaller surface areas can be difficult when applying a French polish – especially with an obstruction. In this case the nut was in the way of a smooth stroke across the headstock.

The only option I had was to wipe away from […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Back

(Prev: 15th Fret Marker)

Again, French polish on the back, but far easier to apply – nothing’s in the way!

The box in the background of the picture is the pumice stone, the small glass jar holds the mixed shellac and the small plastic container keeps the “rubber” moist when not in use.

(Next: Headstock)

Mandolin Build: 15th Fret Marker

(Prev: French Polish Side)

This was a tricky little area to construct …

Normally, the 15th fret marker has no trim – it’s just a white line of plastic. Of course, I wanted to be different!

So, I added a piece of rosewood trim in front of the 15th fret marker to complete the look of the rosewood […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Side

(Prev: Fret Board Inlay)

Here’s a good look at the side of mandolin #1. I figured I’d go for broke and try installing a rosewood binding. This has to be done with care – take too much off the body and the sanding process relieves too much material, leaving the side too thin in some […]

Mandolin Build: Fret Board Inlay

(Prev: French Polish Top)

Again, one of my “signatures” on my hand-built instruments is abalone position markers.

This is a picture of the abalone inlay on mandolin #1. I use smaller 5mm dots, as opposed to 6mm, for this application. I like the look of the dots to be comfortably inside the frets. The larger dots […]

Mandolin Build: French Polish Top

This is the first time I’ve attempted a French polish on an instrument. French polish is simply a term for shellac. The shellac is purchased in a dry, crystal form and Everclear grain alcohol (190 proof) is added to a set weight of the shellac as a catalyst to dissolve the crystals. Under normal […]